Dobbins Discusses University Initiatives with CBEC Advisory Council

MALDEN, Mo.,

Sept. 23, 2005 – Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, met with the Advisory Council and faculty representatives of the Harry L. Crisp Bootheel Education Center in Malden, Mo., Thursday along with area school officials and community leaders, discussing fall enrollment, the University’s new Student Transitions Initiative and Southeast’s investment in its regional campuses.

 Dobbins told the group that Southeast’s total undergraduate and graduate student enrollment is up 7 percent over this time last year. He said the University’s final fall census report shows combined undergraduate and graduate student headcount at a record 10,292, up from 9,618 at this time last year.

Total undergraduate student headcount is 8,968, he said, up six percent from 8,460 at this time last year. He said graduate student headcount is 1,324, up 14.3 percent from fall 2004. Dobbins said Southeast’s partnerships with area school districts and the Regional Professional Development Center (RPDC) have been integral to the growth in Southeast’s School of Graduate Studies. He said the College of Education has forged partnerships with more than 50 school districts, including many in the Bootheel area for delivery of graduate courses to the region’s educators.

Dobbins also noted that the University’s total beginning freshmen headcount is 1,679, up 11.9 percent from fall 2004.

He said Southeast’s duplicated headcount at the University’s three regional campuses south of Cape Girardeau in Sikeston, Malden and Kennett, Mo., is up 67 percent from last year, when courses at the centers were taught by both Southeast and Three Rivers Community College. The regional campuses south of Cape Girardeau now have only Southeast students enrolled. Southeast headcount at the regional campus at Malden is 203, up from 108 in fall 2004. Headcount at the Sikeston campus is 629, up from 536 at this time last year. Southeast headcount at the Kennett campus is 305, up from 72 in fall 2004.

Dobbins said the final census figures also indicate a significant increase in students enrolled in online courses. Currently 411 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled exclusively in online courses compared to 306 at this time last year. He noted that 1,651 students are taking a combination of Web and traditional classroom courses.

Southeast is offering 143 online courses this fall, but more important, he said, the University is now offering many courses as components of complete online degree programs. The Bachelor of General Studies degree is now a complete online degree program with emphases in such areas as business, communication, criminal justice, industrial management and psychology. This complete online degree program is now available to students at the regional campuses.

Dobbins said Southeast is pleased to have exceeded the 10,000 enrollment mark for the first time, but the number is not as significant as the University’s continued commitment to serving students with small classes and personal attention, professional programs and practical experience.

 To that end, he said the University has launched a new Student Transitions Initiative this fall designed to help students prepare for entering the job market from the day they begin their Southeast classes.

Beginning this fall, all new Southeast students, including those at the CBEC and the other Southeast regional campus, are participating in the “Transitions Initiative,” which will take students from First STEP orientation to career planning to hands-on learning opportunities to job placement or graduate school. This new effort will provide a coordinated, integrated delivery of services and support designed to help students make successful transitions into college, majors and career paths, and into the world of professional and community life.

Dobbins says the initiative will help students make informed choices about academic planning and help them more easily connect academics to post-graduation plans. The initiative offers a personal, professional and practical approach to career planning. The University will be arranging group and individual sessions with students at its regional campuses as part of this initiative in an effort to assist students in learning about internship and employment opportunities.

The University has hired experiential learning coordinators and career specialists in St. Louis and Cape Girardeau to assist with the effort. Southeast also has entered into a pilot partnership with Missouri’s Division of Workforce Development, Dobbins said, which assists clients and employers in economic development by connecting and matching employees’ talents and credentials with employer needs.

“We are the only university that is in this unique and dynamic project with the Division of Workforce Development,” he said. “We are a beta site for Missouri and the only university in the state doing this.”

 As part of the agreement between the University and the Division of Workforce Development, students must use GreatHires.org as one of their tools for finding pre-professional internships and practica and for their post-graduation plans. In return, the Division of Workforce Development has hired four career counselors who will work alongside academic advisors to provide students at the regional campuses and on the Cape Girardeau campus with the career help they need.

Dobbins says the University’s partnership with the Division of Workforce Development will give the University access to the Missouri Career Center, which will help place Southeast students in positions.

In addition to the Student Transitions Initiative, Dobbins also discussed recent changes at Southeast’s regional campuses. He said the University invested $600,000 this year in its regional campuses, including $200,000 in science lab equipment, $80,000 in computer labs, $30,000 in classroom technology packages and $25,000 in upgrades to ITV classrooms.

“We have upgraded our computer labs and science equipment at all our regional campuses, so we think students are being better served than before,” he said. “We want to make sure that our faculty and our equipment at our regional campuses are providing students at these facilities with the same quality experience students get on the Cape Girardeau campus.”

At Southeast’s regional campus at Sikeston, Dobbins said the University is proceeding with a 10,800-square-foot expansion, a portion of which will serve as SAHEC’s new child care center. The two-story addition will increase the size of the current 33,000-square-foot SAHEC facility by approximately one-third, he said. The child care portion will consume 3,000 square feet, he said, while the remaining 7,800 square feet will be used for additional classroom and office space. An additional 1,800 square feet of existing space also is being renovated for a science lab, he said.

Southeast’s regional campus at Kennett also is gearing up for expansion, Dobbins said.

The University’s partnerships with their local communities in the regional campuses in Malden, Kennett and Sikeston and the Perryville Area Higher Education Center were recognized last year by the Southern Growth Policies Board. This organization, established by the governors of 13 southern states, presented Southeast with its Regional Innovator Award in June. Each year Southern Growth Policies Board, a regional public policy think tank, recognizes innovative programs in the South that are improving the quality of life in the region with Innovator Awards. The focus of the 2005 Innovator Awards was on rural development.

“So, I congratulate you here in Malden for your part in winning this prestigious award for innovation,” Dobbins said.

Southeast also was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report, which annually ranks colleges and universities. Southeast was listed in the top tier of master’s degree granting institutions in the Midwest, he said. That tier includes 72 institutions, of which 50 are private schools and only 22 public universities.

The upper tier ranking, he said, “validates the efforts of our entire faculty and staff who continually strive to make Southeast and all its regional campuses first-rate learning environments.”

  Another Southeast stamp of approval came last spring, he said, when Southeast’s five professional-track options in mass communications – journalism, advertising, public relations, radio and video production – were accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). This distinction, he said, is currently held by only 106 universities in the United States, and less than 20 nationwide are accredited in all five of the fields for which Southeast has been accredited. The only other accredited school in the state is the University of Missouri.

 Dobbins said Southeast’s Donald L. Harrison College of Business also has been ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the 143 Best Business Schools in the nation.

“Southeast is in the process of reinventing itself, and making the transition from good to great,” he said. “We think we are well on our way.”